Picture a bell curve. It’s a continuum with Forcing on one end and Avoiding on the other. In the middle is the sweet spot. It’s not a compromise of forcing and avoiding, but a different entity altogether.
If I’m in an improv scene and i’m trying to force one story into being, and my scene partner is attempting to force another scene, it does not work. (Actually it can get quite ugly.)
Alternatively, if we avoid stepping into the scene because we are thinking, “What if it doesn’t turn out like I want it to,” then the scene can be stagnant because you are missing ripe opportunities to show up.
This is true in life as well. When we force something into being – a relationship, a project, anything really – it may seem to be working out in the short term, but often – due to the forcing – you are pretending that things are ripe when they really are not.
And when we avoid things in life, for instance a crucial conversation* at work or your personal life, things fester. And in the short term things seem okay, but they are not and the longer it festers the harder it is to get out of avoidance.
In the middle or apex of the curve is Facing. To be there we are moving away from avoidance. And we are also letting go of the false need to force.
Sweet! So how come we aren’t living there more often? We don’t live there because we are uncomfortable with uncertainty. We have fooled ourselves into believing that we need to be in control of our lives at every turn. And if there is anything we can’t control (or force), we better avoid that. This happens on a spectrum of blatant and more subtle forms.
Uncertainty involves trust with another person and we have been hurt. Over and over. So understandably, why would we step anywhere close to that dynamic?
Because, though we have been hurt in relationship, it’s also where we find healing. We cannot heal in isolation.
So how do we learn to become comfortable with uncertainty in the presence of another, not forcing or avoiding, but staying grounded and holding the open space for something new to emerge?
( I know Big Surprise. It’s oozing out of my pores by now).
I am believing and experiencing more and more that in order to start something new we need to start small, and build a new pattern in an embodied way.
One of the simplest improv games that shows this is a Word-At-A-Time story. We build a story, you and me, one….word…at….a….time. Back and forth. If you say ”Lost” and say ”your” and I’m thinking your gonna say ”wallet” but instead you say ”dog”. If I’ve been in a posture of forcing I’m going to try to force wallet into a story where it doesn’t belong.
In this game you can’t control the path – you only have 50% of the words. It also does not work if you are passive. It’s vital that you are present and engaged. And this involves, together with your partner, facing the unknown.
Here’s the good news: every time this game is played, when people FACE uncertainty, they discover and build something together. More than that they discover joy – in an embodied way.
I believe that when we begin to experience in small, safe containers (improv or a mature relationship) this movement away from forcing and avoiding, and towards Facing Uncertainty, we will be able make that an established pattern in our lives, and inevitably we will find a fresh vitality there.